By John Salak –
Move over ketogenic and high-fat diets, intermittent fasting is all the rage for those looking to drop physical baggage, maybe detox a bit, gain energy and generally improve their long-term health prospects.
Not surprisingly, more Americans than ever—and probably people around the world—are dieting in one form or another. In fact, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) reports that last year 43 percent of Americans claimed to be on some diet, which was up significantly from the two previous years.
The council, however, also notes that in a corresponding survey of Americans ages 18 to 80 about 10 percent claimed to be following an intermittent fasting program, making it the most popular diet in the country. Clean eating regimes and keto diets came in second and third, garnering 9 and 8 percent of respondents, respectively.
The results are great news for fasting proponents, but popularity doesn’t always equate to effectiveness. The bigger questions facing those fasting include whether the approach will trim pounds and does it work any better than other diets.
The answers are a bit elusive. Not all fasting diets are the same, although the most popular one is the 5:2 diet, which requires participants to eat normally five days a week while restricting consumption to 500 to 600 calories on the other two days.
“Because there are no requirements about which foods to eat but rather when you should eat them, this diet is more of a lifestyle,” reported Healthline.com.
Queen Mary Hospital in London recently looked into the matter further by trying to sus out the relative benefits of the 5:2 diet by working with approximately 300 adults over a year. The program split the participants into two groups, providing one with advice on traditional weight-loss regimes while the other got guidance on the intermittent fasting approach.
The weight-loss difference between the approaches was somewhat minimal. Just under 20 percent of those getting info on fasting lost at least 5 percent of their body weight over the year, while about 15 percent of those working through traditional dieting programs gained the same benefits, the university reported.
The popularity of the approaches differs widely, however. The 5:2 diet group was much more likely to stick with the fasting approach or recommend it to others than those participants who worked through more traditional programs. Ultimately, being more popular probably makes the diet more effective, at least in terms of people staying with it. It also provides clinicians with more palatable advice for those looking to shed pounds.
“Here we’ve been able to provide the first results on the effectiveness of simple 5:2 diet advice in a real-life setting,” reported Dr. Katie Myers Smith, a senior research fellow at the university. “We found that although the 5:2 diet wasn’t superior to traditional approaches in terms of weight loss, users preferred this approach as it was simpler and more attractive. Based on these findings, GPs may consider recommending the 5:2 diet as part of their standard weight management advice.”
If that’s not reason enough to move towards the 5:2 diet, researchers at the University of South Australia recently suggested that the approach is particularly effective for battling post gestational diabetes.
In effect, Australian researchers claim intermittent fasting allows mothers with new babies to lose and keep weight off. This is no small concern as about 20 percent of pregnancies are affected by gestational diabetes. The women involved, particularly overweight individuals, also have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
“Gestational diabetes is the fastest-growing type of diabetes in Australia, affecting 15 percent of pregnancies,” Dr. Kristi Gray reported.
Exercise and healthy eating or diets are recommended for managing the problem. Unfortunately, traditional approaches are not always effective.
“The trouble is, however, that new mums often put themselves last when they’re struggling with fatigue and juggling family responsibilities—so when it comes to weight loss, many find it hard to stick to a low-calorie diet. The 5:2 diet may provide a less overwhelming option,” Dr. Gray noted. As it only cuts calories over two days, some women may find it easier to adopt and adhere to, as opposed to a consistently low-calorie diet requiring constant management,” she added.
Beyond this, the 5:2 diet works. “Our research shows that the 5:2 diet is just as effective at achieving weight loss as a continuous energy-restricted diet in women who have had gestational diabetes, which is great because it provides women with greater choice and control,” Dr. Gray concluded.